Monday, November 28, 2011

Love Among the Eagles


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saturday Trip to Mattamuskeet Part 1

My trip started earlier than expected as I awoke around 0230 and dared not go back to sleep for another hour.  I finished loading the car and headed out around 0315.  I suspected the deer would be everywhere (and they were) and wanted to drive carefully and unhurried.  Also driving almost due east, I wanted to for the most part beat sunrise so I was not driving looking into the sun.

I stopped for breakfast around 0530, relaxed a bit from the constant on guard for darting deer and hit the road.  I arrived in time to see the sunrise which was beautiful.  The lake came alive with motion and sound.  Huge V's of Tundra Swan were flying in from their evening roost in nearby fields.  The sound of thousands of swan is something to behold.  Wings slapping against the water as they squabbled with each other and relocating to another position carried far across the water.

Lake Mattamustkeet is in the heart of the east coast flyway.  There is a constant coming and going of various birds so you never know what is in.  Most of the snow geese had not arrived.  They may however have been further on the outerbanks toward Pea Island NWR.  I only saw a few.  With the exception of a few pairs, most of the Pintails and Northern Shovlers had not arrived.   They both tend to arrive mid-December.  I did spot a few.  The American Wigeon's were beautiful but not of my shots are up to par.

What was amazing were the number of Coots.  Their numbers were unbelievable.  I kept seeing these long streaks of dark birds far out on the lake that would come together to form huge dark spots.  As they were so far out, my camera would not make that reach so I pulled out the spotting scope and took a shot through it.  Apologies for the quality.  This was one of my reasons to go was to start getting some practice on digiscoping.

The eagles were quite amazing and put on a good show most of the day.  I did learn a valuable lesson....when you get out of the car....ALWAYS take your camera with you.  I missed an unbelievable opportunity of two juvenile eagles fighting with each other over a fish.  I had only taken the scope out to set up for practice shots.  This shot is taken with a Canon 100-400 lens.  The distance from the shore line to the line of trees where the eagles like to hang out is right at the outer limits of the lens.  Hence, will follow in the next post after I have time to go through the photos some of the digiscoping attempts.

It is a new P&S camera I got to use with the scope and absolutely I still have a lot to learn about how the camera interacts with the scope and figure the best settings.  Most of the purpose of this trip was to do just that so when I go back later in December or first part of January, I will hopefully be prepared. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Back

I am on vacation this week and had made a commitment to give back some work time to the park I  regularly visit. It is a county park with a limited budget so some things go by the wayside. I figured I could do some simple things like weeding flower beds, clipping back wayward briars that creep into the trails, picking up litter, etc.  For every hour that I spend birding or walking in the park, I will give back an hour  of volunteer work time.

Probably most of what I am doing will never be noticed by the general park visitor.  They are subtle but things that needed to be done.  My one pet project area however is beginning to show signs of improvement.  I think what ticks me off the most are the people who litter.  There are trash and recycling cans located in various locations yet folks will throw trash down versus holding on to it for a bit until it can be properly disposed of. 

This morning started out very foggy so I worked first then birded once the clouds began lifting.  The back marsh was very quiet at first until a group of around seven Bluebirds arrived.   A flurry of activity followed.  From out of nowhere, multiple species were present and joining in on the frantic behavior of the Bluebirds.

The original Bluebird who found some remaining poke berries was eating them as fast as possible.  Then another flew in which did not please the first bird, then still more.  They were so busy chasing each other away until the resident Mockingbird flew in to take the prize and chased all of them away.

On the pond I felt really sorry for one of the female Buffleheads.  Out of the group, four males and two females.  They couldn't catch a break from the constant advances of the males.  This one female finally flew away from the group of males.  I guess she needed some alone time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bath Time

The unseasonably warm weather has continued and nature seems a bit confused.  I went out for a bit this morning but not much out.  Six Buffleheads have now arrived at the pond in additional to around a dozen mallards, one pair of Grebe and one pair of Wood Ducks.  Otherwise, very slow.

I took advantage of the warm weather today to redo two beds of iris. They did not bloom well last year so hopefully a fresh infusion of soil, dividing and giving some room will have positve results when spring arrives. 

The birds at home took advantage of the warm weather and indulged in quite a bit of bathing today.  I had come inside to fix a glass of water and the birds flocked to the fountain.  I grabbed the camera and took a shot through the window so it is not the best as the window has a slight tint.  For about 10 minutes, it was a constant rotation of birds enjoying the bath.

My plans to go to Lake Mattamuskeet have kept being postponed for various reasons.  My thoughts this morning were to go tomorrow but weather now looks to be an issue so I am aiming for later in the week or possibly the weekend.  As that area has also been having unseasonably warm weather, I am curious on whether the seasonal influx of Tundra Swan and Snow Geese has been delayed.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Super Easy Slouchy Rice Bag Camera Support

More and more I was finding I needed a good support for shooting out the car window. I have experimented with a couple of designs but for ease of sewing and flexibility to adjust size, it is a pretty decent design. Very minimal sewing skills required and there is no right or wrong. It is just whatever you need.

I began with sitting in the car and going through a range of motion to determine what size I needed. I folded an 11x17 piece of paper in half, drew out the basic design and cut while folded to ensure both sides were the same. After sewing however, I think a little additional in the arch would have been better. From testing several designs, curves no sharper than the outside radius of a CD will ensure easy sewing.

Pin the pattern on fabric and cut two. These are your sides. Next determine how wide of a support you need. Your call for your needs. Remember to figure in your seem allowance. If you sew with 1/2 inch seams, add an inch to what you want your final width to be. Cut a strip of fabric the width you want making sure you have enough to go all around. If you can find a wide rip-stop fabric, all the better. It is tough and will take abuse yet easy to sew. Denim would also be good but not really a heavy canvas.

Double and sew about 2 1/2 to 3 inches at the beginning of your strip. Sew a couple of reinforcing seems. This is where one piece of velcro will go. Don't run your velcro full length into what will be the seams. Pin to one side...right side's of fabric together. Straight stitch around, remove pins and sew a reinforcing zig-zag directly over the stitch line or another straight stitch just a little apart.

Once you have a general idea of where the strip will end, you can cut leaving enough to double at the end and reinforce for your second part of the velcro attachment. These two will overlap. Turn right side out, sew on your velcro.

Turn wrong side out, pin your second side. Sew, turn right side out through the velcro opening. As I don't like to put rice directly against the fabric, I like the very thin large plastic bags you find at the produce section. They are quiet, flexible and will protect the rice from moisture. Slip the bag in, fill with rice, tie a knot and you are done. From start to finish, less than an hour.

 Another advantage to this method is if the cover needs washing, empty the rice, remove the bag, wash and refill.

I am working on a little more well defined design but the "slouchy" design is super easy and works very well with minimal sewing skills.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Golden Crowned Kinglets

I went out a bit this morning enjoying the streak of beautiful weather we are having. Mid 70's and it is mid-November...who could ask for better.

The Golden Crowned Kinglets have arrived. I refer to them as speed demons in the trees. They never sit still for more than a couple of seconds at a time and make for a challenging photo session.

                                                Their preferred locations of hunting amidst the vines, scrub or trees adds to the challenge since the areas always seem to be in the shade.

This morning there were a group of four working an area hard for insects. Two of the females tangled with each other several times always ending up on the ground. The male with his bright orange crown stayed high in the trees.  He was the one I was hoping to get a good shot.  Oh well, another day.  He was in such deep shade the shot is not very good. Ocassionally,  if he squabble between the two females that were bickering became loud enough, he would fly down as if breaking up the fight.

I forgot how much fun and a challenge they are to photograph and look forward to their remaining time in the area. Depending on the weather, they usually depart in early March.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Junco's Have Arrived

In all the time I spent outside yesterday, I never saw a single Junco. Generally around the 15th of November you begin seeing them. Almost magically overnight they seemed to have arrived. What caught my attention first was an unfamiliar chirp. After months without them around, it is like learning a new bird by sound all over again.

The big boy's were out hunting early this morning. This Red-Tailed Hawk situated himself into the Kestrel's territory.  The Kestrel was not happy with the hawk invading it's space and swooped repeatedly at the hawk.

The hawk seemed merely annoyed at the distraction and eventually it had enough and flew off to another area.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Shots

A chilly start this morning but temperatures quickly rose to around 65.  A light southwest breeze ushered in warm air to replace that of a cold front that came through Thursday night.  With the change in daylight savings time, I was able to get an early start.  My intent was to try and scope the Kestrel this morning but that quickly changed when a group of crows harrassed the poor bird out of the area.  I was quite concerned for a while as there were so many crows that ganged up.  I got one quick unprepared shot as it flew to a nearby tree trying to escape.  The aerial acrobatics that followed were quite amazing to watch.

Lots of Eastern Blue Birds, Pine Warblers, White-Throated Sparrows and Song Sparrows about.  I started watching a Red-Bellied Woodpecker that was flying from tree to tree. I could see it was carrying something and it finally came close enough to see.  It must have thought it had a grand prize.  After a couple of more trees, it finally found one where it stashed the pecan and moved on.

On to the park.  I was taking my time on the main bridge over the pond searching for the pair a pair of Wood Ducks that have come in.  All of a sudden a group of mallards scattered.  As I searched for what spooked them, I could see the water moving.  The otter was having a great time stirring everything up.

I continued down the trail beside the creek hoping to get them where I suspect their den is.  The creek splits so I think they took the branch that did not run beside the trail.

As I was standing overlooking the marsh, a Brown Thrasher flew in right beside me.  It seemed very curious as to what I kept looking at.  If only all birds were so unafraid and willing to come so close.


Out for a bit yesterday morning but it was a terrible birding day.  Winds were gusting and with the cool temps it was not fun to be out.  Arrival of fall has brought some of the Kestrels back to the area so I headed to see if they were out hunting. 

The first one I encountered had a kill and was eating when I first arrived.  I tried to ease out of the car but of course it flew but not too far.  This is a very large Kestrel.  I have watched it several times and
have noted each time it appears larger than many I have seen.

Moving on up the road to see what was out, I happened to notice a bird sitting on a tree sliver.  This was probably 55-60 feet out and an electric fence would not allow me to get any closer.  The coloration was quite gray but the behavior of flying off, circling and coming back was that of a Ketrel so I stopped and set up the camera.  Yes, it was a Kestrel and probably a young bird.  It was a bit small and did not have the classic Kestrel coloration patterns.

Once I arrived home and uploaded the days shots, I noticed that this smaller Kestrel had a leg band on.  I spent a little time looking last night trying to track down banded Ketrels in NC.  I am always curious when I encounter a banded bird on who, when and where.

Hopefully today the wind will subside.  I plan to take the scope out this morning and try some digiscoping to see if I can get some good shots.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

For many, Veteran's Day is looked upon as just a day off work.  The significance of the day gets easily lost in the fast pace of life yet it is those very people  that have made it possible for us in this country to go about our daily lives with relative freedom and security.

Depsite almost 30 years of military service, I too have been quilty of losing track of what this day truely means.  It particularly hits home when you have personnel losses within your organization whether you closely knew the person or not.  It is truely a brotherhood that exists between Soldiers and all feel the loss.  Shared experiences create lasting bonds that many will never understand.

On this day, I thnk about those families who have lost loved ones.  About the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors who have given so much to serve.  The time away from their family and for many, the physical and/or emotional scars they will carry with them the remainder of their lives.  And yes, the general BS that all military personnel have to put up with.

We have yet another generation of young men and women who have experienced the effects of war.  It is a very sad statement on mankind that as long as prejudice and greed (whether for money, power or contol) exists we seem destined to have conflicts.

So as I wait for sunrise to go birding this morning, I will enjoy my freedom to be secure that I can walk about freely.  I will put out the flag to show my appreciation and respect to veterans past and current.  Mid-morning I will head down to Ft. Bragg for a special exhibit that runs through today. 

"For those who fought for it, freedom has a taste the protected will never know."

"All gave some, some gave all"